In All Earthly Circumstances, Identity Matters

older man walkingFrom childhood, we are told that we are “sexual beings.”  It seems only fair to ask, “How does emphasis on life as a ‘sexual being’ help our brother or sister in Christ who practices celibacy but battles homosexual desires?  What are we saying to them when we educate early and long about God’s ‘gift of sexuality?'”

It is, first of all, understandable that Christians want to affirm sex as the “good,” “one flesh” union of husband and wife that God created it to be. However, when even Christians repeatedly define men and women as “sexual human beings,” how are we helping our brother or sister who struggles with sexual temptations? It was disappointing to read the following in The Lutheran Witness (October 2013, p.10):

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). This includes life in all its fullness regarding one’s sexuality and the gift of sex.

When Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (English Standard Version), He is describing a battle for our eternal body and soul. Jesus promises the believer an abundantly full and holy life with the Father in eternity, but Satan wants to steal away all hope of such life and leave us in despair. Abundant life is not found in the promises of this sin-filled world but in Jesus Christ and His promise of everlasting life with God. This passage is not about sexuality and our temporal life, but salvation and our eternal life. In heaven there is no marriage (Matt. 22:29-30), which seems to imply there is no sex. The Christian who struggles with homosexual desires on this earth but trusts their identity as a baptized child of God in Christ has the promise of abundant life in heaven, not where they will find fullness of sexuality, but complete holiness and eternal life with God.

I often quote Christopher Yuan, the author of Out of a Far Country.   In the midst of his struggle against homosexual desires, Christopher began to understand that God was calling him to be holy.

My identity was not “gay” or “homosexual” or even “heterosexual,” for that matter. But my identity as a child of the living God must be in Jesus Christ alone . . . God never said “Be heterosexual, for I am heterosexual.” He said, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

In this sinful world, it is rather depressing to think of my identity as being “sexual.” What will happen when I’m not thinking, looking or acting “sexual”? What if it isn’t the driving force of my life? What happens when sexual appeal fades, the pace is slowed and I require more patience and care from others? How will my value be measured?

In this sinful world, it is refreshingly hopeful to know my identity as a daughter of God. I am a treasure of great worth because of what Jesus Christ did for me. I am a vessel for honorable use until the day God calls me to His home where I, indeed, will enjoy the fullness of holy and abundant life.

From The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (pp. 109-110)
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)
Visit Our Identity Matters

Singleness Is Not An Affliction

silhouette of woman on beachSex education in the Church, quite unintentionally, may diminish the vocations of biblical manhood and womanhood.  It may, perhaps, cause some men and women to view singleness as an affliction.  Sex education that has taken its cue from the secular model misses something vitally important when it focuses primarily on God’s “good” creation of sex and sexuality, but gives very little time to God’s “good” creation of manhood and womanhood.

We do not need sexual intimacy to be a man or to be a woman, but men and women do need to be relational. We do this best when we see ourselves in light of our Baptism. As sons and daughters of God in Christ, male and female can see each other as brothers and sisters. We can work together, enjoy life together, pair up different perspectives in order to problem-solve, serve in church or neighborhood together, and always trust that God knows the desires of their heart.

The Tenth Commandment has something to say to the single man or woman. We are not supposed to covet “anything that is your neighbor’s.” This includes our neighbor’s sexuality. Marriage is the sacred place for all things sexual, but being a husband or a wife is a vocation for some and not for others. It is important for the Body of Christ to see each member as fully human as opposed to sexual and, therefore, an instrument for God’s purpose and glory whether a child or adult, single or married, in this circumstance or that. We see in Scripture that singleness is not an affliction or lessening of personhood; rather it is an opportunity to serve the Lord Jesus in a different way than in marriage.

God does want our undivided attention. St. Paul writes, “The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband” (1 Co. 7:32-34). The commentary in The Lutheran Study Bible reads, “Neither Christ nor Paul praise virginity because it justifies, but because it is freer and less distracted by domestic occupations in praying, teaching, and serving.” (p.1956)

Pleasing God is the priority for a Christian. In all honesty, do you think sinful men and women in this world are more encouraged to please God when they see themselves as “sexual,” or when they see themselves as baptized sons and daughters of God in Christ?

The right identity matters.

From The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity, pp 107-108
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)
Visit Our Identity Matters

Sex Education and Singleness

group of peopleHow might an emphasized identity as a “sexual being” influence a single man or woman?  What impact might years and years of sex education (or even abstinence education with a focus on “waiting” for the “joys of marital sex”) have on a person who is not married?

The unmarried man or woman might ask, “If God created me to be a sexual being, am I not fully human?” The mistaken identity of “sexual from birth” might tempt a man or woman to believe that they’ll never be all they were meant to be if they don’t marry and enjoy sexual intimacy.

Jesus Christ was not married and yet He was fully human. It is our personhood that defines us and not our sexual desires or urges. Oh, but some insist, our sexuality is part of our personhood; we would be incomplete without it. But Jesus Christ, fully human, never entered into a sexually intimate relationship. There is liberation in this truth for the single man or woman.

Knowing who we will be in heaven is also liberating for the single man or woman.  Some men once posed a question of Jesus.  “Now there were seven brothers among us.  The first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother.  So too the second and third, down to the seventh.  After them all, the woman died.  In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be?  For they all had her” (Matt. 22:25-28).  How did Jesus answer?  “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.  For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage . . . .” (vv. 29-30).  If earthly marriages are no longer binding in heaven; if, indeed, we “neither marry nor are given in marriage,” wouldn’t we also be able to say that identity for a male or female is not sexually-bound?   In heaven, we will be the person— body and soul—that we were on earth only perfect in every way.  But it does not appear that sex or “sexuality” is part of our eternal personhood.

The exaggerated place of sexuality in cradle to grave sex education is destructive to all relationships between men and women, married or single. It takes our focus off the identity bestowed upon us at Baptism. For Christians, mature manhood and womanhood is about relating to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, being thankful for the gift of self-control and enjoying the respectful interaction of male and female perspectives on life. It means men assume the role of leader and protector but in ways that vary from how a husband would lead and protect his wife. It means that women assume the role of helper, ally and even counselor but in ways that vary from how a wife would submissively yet confidently help her husband. Personally, I find it humorous, productive and comforting to interact with my brothers in Christ. Seeing my identity as fundamentally “sexual” would potentially change every relationship I have with the men in my life. That would be a tragic loss for me.

The baptized child of God in Christ can live fully as a male or female without ever being sexually intimate. Self-control, as evidenced by the Apostle Paul (1 Co. 7:7) is a gift. We can say that with the gift of self-control comes order and strength for life. Mature manhood and womanhood receive the gift of self-control and are not dependent upon sexual intimacy. Man does not become man by getting married and being “one flesh” with his wife, nor does woman become woman by getting married and being “one flesh” with her husband.

From The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity, pp 106-107
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)
Visit: Our Identity Matters